Goal: Priority species and non-desirable species are at acceptable population levels

The Coastal Assembly will track progress towards this goal by collecting data for the following metrics:

  • Phragmites coverage in the wetland
  • Phragmites coverage around the wetland
  • Priority bird species population levels (under development)
  • Priority fish species population levels (under development)

Great Lakes coastal wetlands are most viable when they are primarily populated by native plants, with invasive species only appearing in small numbers and covering minimal area.

The Assembly envisions coastal landscapes that support the unique structure and processes essential for sustaining healthy species populations, resilient natural communities, and for providing benefits to human society. In its focus on coastal wetlands, the Assembly has stated a goal that “priority species and non-desirable species are at acceptable population levels.” Tracking progress towards this goal requires us to monitor native and non-native species populations in coastal wetland areas.

  • Phragmites coverage in the wetland
  • Phragmites coverage around the wetland

The percentage of invasive Phragmites coverage is an important indicator of coastal wetland health. The existence of large monotypic areas decreases biodiversity and drastically alters hydrologic and nutrient cycles. Native Phragmites australis subsp. americanus (common reed) helps sustain biodiversity in wetlands across the Great Lakes basin. However, the non-native subspecies (P. australis subsp. australis) is an invasive species that easily spreads and is difficult to permanently remove.

Non-native Phragmites has been called “the worst invasive plant species in Canada” by Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (State of the Great Lakes, 2017). Concern for this species led to the creation of a bi-national collaborative called the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative, which was established in 2012 to “reduce the spread and occurrence of Phragmites in the Great Lakes basin by improving management and research and enhancing communication and collaboration.” Intensive management of Phragmites has yielded increases in native plant coverage as well as increases in the extent of coastal wetland areas.

  • Priority bird species population levels (under development)
  • Priority fish species population levels (under development)

These metrics were selected to the Assembly to recognize species that are priority for recreation (e.g., game species) or conservation (e.g., rare or imperiled species), or that are invasive and thus a focus for management. Focal species will be selected based on collaboration and discussion by Assembly participants. Information on these two metrics will be provided in future, scheduled updates of Blue Accounting.

The Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) has been monitoring Phragmites coverage in the Great Lakes basin since 2011. Groups such as the USGS and GLCWMP (Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Program) have been using these data to develop various metrics including Phragmites habitat suitability assessments, and Phragmites coverage in and around wetlands. However, no target values for reducing Phragmites coverage have been set basin-wide or for any of the individual lake basins

Data were provided by the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI). Additional resources were surveyed for classification systems, term descriptions, target values and goals, and current statuses:

State of the Great Lakes Technical Report (2017)

Great Lakes Biodiversity Conservation Strategies (2009-2015)

Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative (2017)

Environment Canada Huron-Erie Corridor (2014)

Michigan DNR State Parks Management (2012)

GL Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Program (2011)

Michigan Tech Research Institute (2014)

The Michigan Technical Research Institute (MTRI)data set, developed through cooperative research with the USGS Great Lakes Science Center, was last updated in 2014.

MTRI’s Phragmites coverage data was overlain with the 2004 Consortium wetland area polygons to calculate the percent of Phragmites coverage within existing wetland areas and within 5-km buffers of those wetland areas. These metrics were calculated for each Great Lake, sub-lake basin, state/province, and wetland polygon.

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